Showing Gratitude to Msit No’gmaq…All my Relations

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Before daybreak, on April 11, the Newport Wharf is busy as captains and crew are getting ready to leave for the new 2023 snow crab season. The opening is set for 5:00 a.m. and no vessels are allowed to leave before that time. 

On this Easter weekend, Chad Gedeon volunteered his time to visit our vessels at the wharfs of Ste. Therese, Grande Riviere, and Newport to conduct a Send-Off ceremony. “It’s nice to be with captains and crew. They gathered in a circle, and we smudged and prayed for their safety, and we gave thanks to the Water Spirit. It was a moving moment when I was singing the Honour Song and heard the voices of the children of Captain Franklin Brisk joining us,” he said. 

It’s the second year that the Natural Resource Directorate organized the Send Off ceremony and Chad enthusiastically got involved. On March 31, a group of 70 people gathered for the ceremony at the AGS. “Today, we have a vibrant fleet of vessels with our captains and crew. That was unthinkable 25 years ago, but times are changing and this afternoon we are celebrating the launching of a new commercial fishing season,” said Saqamaw Scott Martin.

The Send-Off ceremony is based on cultural and spiritual teachings and it highlights Ta’n telmi’watmg goqwei (Giving Thanks), one of the Seven Mi’gmaq principles which are essential to maintaining a balanced relationship with Creation and the use and occupancy of our territory. The event was supported by the LMG and the AGS.

For Denny Isaac, NRD Associate Director, “it’s significant to take the responsibility to revitalize and integrate this principle and teachings into our activities and foster opportunities for Mi’gmaq youth to witness and be part of it and to reconnect with our traditions.”

The one-hour event started with a prayer and a minute of silence for the fishers who have gone to the Spirit World. People attending the event went to the AGS Ceremony Room to make their tobacco offering and their prayer. Elder Eunice Metallic gathered the offerings and divided them into eleven pouches, one for each of the LMG vessels. The key moment was when eleven students, from Miss Karen Martin and Miss Mandy Belliveau’s classes, carried the bundles to the stage to hand them to the fishers.

“The Send-Off ceremony was intended to bring together the community, Elders, youth, NRD, LMG, C&C, Rangers, AGS, Captains, and crew members to show gratitude to the sea that provides for our people and to the commercial fishers and their support staff. It was also meant

to honour the ancestors who signed the Treaties and exercised our Aboriginal rights and the fishers who left for the Spirit World”, emphasized Denny Isaac.

Saqamaw Martin also had words for the staff working at the fisheries. “I would like to acknowledge all of them and say, “Thank you” to the fisheries department who are decisively at the wharf and their offices making sure that fishers, vessels, allocations, processing plants, and our vision are supported. 

Councillor Chad Gedeon conducted the Ceremony with great respect and Jacob Gale, LETE Treaty Education Coordinator shared the teachings about the Treaties and Netukulimk. The ceremony was live streamed by Justin Caldwell of CHRQ with almost 500 views.

The ceremony was also a teaching opportunity that Miss Mandy Belliveau’s class appreciated. In a group conversation about the ceremony “they highlighted the song sung by Mi’gmaq immersion class, the speech and stories and especially they felt good to attend the ceremony and felt honored to give the fishermen their sacred bundles”, said Miss Belliveau. 

Before ending his speech at AGS, Saqamaw Martin had a message for the fishers. “I saw people making their offerings and I know that Elder Chris Wysote also prepared tobacco ties for this event. I would like to ask our fishers, to be our messengers and before you start fishing, make an offering to the sea on our behalf.  We wish you a good fishing season. Come back safe, take care of each other, and support each other. Go back to the sea in a good spirit, honouring our families, our people, and the species that sustain us.”

Eleven days later, captains and crews were offering the tobacco to the Water Spirit. Chad Gedeon and the crew of the Migwite’tm 81 and the Harry Frye were praying and smudging at the wharf of Newport.  There are around 105 vessels all together fishing snow crab on Zone 12, including 21 First Nation vessels.

As the firework was signaling the departure of the fishers they certainly started the season based on the principle of Ta’n telmi’watmg goqwei (Giving Thanks) and along the way, the song and prayers of our community will reach the sea that provides its bounty.

By Felix Atencio-Gonzales

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